Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2010: Number 3
Recently those who keep an eye on prevailing winds in Scottish guitar bands have become accustomed to blustery, frontally noisy misery, huge bellows against the roaring tide. Frightened Rabbit, Twilight Sad, all those. Meursault also do this to a very thin extent, but they also do so, so much more. 2008's Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues was a fascinating mix of delicately emotive and hence very Scottish folk and cracked electronic textures. All Creatures Will Make Merry, literally recorded in a living room, refined and deepened, picking out moments of squalid beauty, self-abasement and ultimate hope in adversity and making them more grandiloquent and meaningful so they came nowhere near a stylistic cut, shut and run. In these hands, it sounds like the most natural pairing. In greater practice, it's as rollercoaster enthralling, noisy yet melodic, and effective at pulling apart the emotions as anyone in the lo-fi scale Macbook plus melodies field has perhaps ever been.
Such development has been aided by the formation of a full band around Neil Pennycook, a big man out of shape and often sounding like he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown, whose troubled Celtic yawp of a voice remains a thing of individual wonder. It gets full reign on Crank Resolutions, a song set in uneasy place by its first lines "I broke down on New Year's Day/And I mixed my drinks and I lost my way...", given plenty of emotion and echo as pre-programmed sequences of bleeps and glitched bass clatter around him, lo-fi pulses overcome by great washes of machine noise amid morse code bleeps as Pennycook pours his heart out, declaiming "they carried you away" as the wall of electronics brings the rapture. As a sermon on the electronics mount it's unbeatable as scene setting, accompanied by the droning march and valley reverberating All Creatures Will Make Merry... Under Pain Of Death. If Meursault have, by fools, been compared to Arcade Fire New Ruin, strings and ukelele somewhere in the mix, puts that trope under heavy artillery fire from beats and a catastrophic level of heavy layering. What You Don't Have brings back the wall of noise in epic shoegazing-tinged fashion, making what underneath it all is quite a tender love song seem like wading through brambles. As so often on the album, this wasn't meant to be this way but it might as well have been given how comfortable in uncomfortableness it all seems. And then there's the occasions on which Pennycook is left alone with his guitar or similar strummed string instrument, compelling even when comparatively normal as on Another. Weather sees promises broken and pledges made to never follow that way again, eventually almost losing itself in hollow confusion; Sleet suggests Fence Collective dark rugged shoreline dramatics. The ghostly One Day This'll All Be Fields, sounding like a 78", sees only banjo and the odd distant background wail accompany Pennycook as he promises/threatens "we will descend from the sky, and we will bury you alive". Song For Martin Kippenberger, named after the late German artist whose art establishment provocations provided YBA influence and interested the Manics enough to feature his work on three seperate Holy Bible singles, is an extended hyperventilated saunter through everything, Pennycook bellowing "please don't send me home" repeatedly against droning synths and in between desperate acoustic strums, sounding simultaneously dense and intimate and after which the piano-based relevation A Fair Exchange seems like the white tunnel after the death rampage. Perhaps the Meursault raison d'etre is best summed up in What You Don't Have: "it's not what you don't have, and how far you can run with it". On these stunning songs there's a raw emotion you cannot physically turn away from.
Crank Resolutions (live)
The full list